Drawing up a Last Will and Testament where there is an international factor is particularly challenging. This post aims to provide straightforward guidance on wills for British citizens who find themselves outside the United Kingdom at this unprecedented time of the global health pandemic.
We are aware that people are unexpectedly facing the question of “worst case scenario” and want to ensure their property and families are protected in case of unexpected death or incapacity.
This guidance on wills may be useful for employees of British companies posted abroad for work, or those employed by international companies overseas, for British travellers stranded overseas, or for British citizens who are permanently resident overseas.
Questions which British citizens overseas typically ask:
- Do I need to make a will at all?
- What type of will?
- Can I make an English will?
- If I decide not to make a will, and I die “intestate”, which of my close relatives would automatically inherit my property?
- If I decide I do need to make a will, should I make a separate will in each country where I own property or have a bank account?
- Can I make just one will that covers all the property I own in every country?
- How does that will have to be written, for example does it have to be typed or handwritten and what language do I have to write it in?
- I want to exclude some family members from inheriting my property, can I do this?
- Does my will need to be witnessed or can I just sign and date it?
- Who can witness my will?
- Where should I keep the will?
- Do I have to name an Executor?
- What is a Trustee?
- Will my body be repatriated to my own country if I die unexpectedly abroad
- Who would manage my estate if I died unexpectedly abroad
- I have made a will in the past, is it still valid?
Form of the will
The response to the question raised by a British Citizen “can I make an English will?” is likely to be “Yes”. A British citizen may be fully entitled to make a standard form English law Last Will and Testament, signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses. This will be the case if the person has assets in the UK, in an EU member state or in a number of other countries who are party to the 1961 Hague Convention on the Conflict of Law Relating to Testamentary Dispositions, such as Australia, South Africa and Mauritius.
In relation to any other country other than those listed above where property is situated, it is highly advisable to take legal advice on the form of the will.
Contents of the will
It is also sensible for British citizens to ask for professional help in drafting the contents of the will from a UK qualified lawyer. It may also be advisable to instruct a lawyer qualified in the jurisdiction in which the person’s property is situated.
How the will is drawn up depends on all the factors personal to that individual, such as their family situation, nationality, domicile, the country where they live and the type of property they own.
Lasting Power of Attorney
We are often asked also about the scenario where a person becomes injured or sick and is incapable of managing their property or finances back in the UK, and whether they can name someone based there to deal with these? In that situation it is advisable to apply to the Office of the Public Guardian to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney which is valid even if the person loses legal capacity.
For a more detailed analysis on the conflict between English law and Italian succession law see our recent article on Inheritance and Estate planning.
Please contact Charlotte Oliver for further guidance on wills:
Cell: + 39 3332937921
Charlotte Oliver is a registered Trusts and Estates Practitioner and a full member of STEP